Spoilers for anyone who still hasn’t seen Season 3 of House of Cards.
In its first three seasons, House of Cards delivered plenty of shocks, surprises, and various moments of extreme discomfort, from Frank Underwood’s various murders to his fragile-to-crumbling marriage with Claire. But it turns out that the show’s most challenging scene for creator Beau Willimon to craft didn’t even directly involve Kevin Spacey’s master manipulator. It was all about Doug and retribution.
Just under a month before the Primetime Emmy Awards arrive, possibly bringing more trophies to the acclaimed political drama, Willimon spoke with THR about the show, and he explained that the events in the Season 3 finale were the hardest for him to write.
When Doug turns the van around to take care of Rachel. For most of the season he was going to let her go, but I realized the only way for him to come back into the fold of Team Underwood was to do this act [and kill her]. Michael [Kelly] said, ‘Oh man, people are going to hate me.’ I said, ‘Maybe.’ And he said, ‘But we have to do it.’ We filmed with the knowledge that if we changed our minds, we could maybe take that scene out. But once we saw it, we knew it was the right choice.
In the Season 2 finale, Rachel mistakenly thought that Doug was trying to kill her and she bashed his head and left him for dead. It was a huge shock when Doug returned to the drama in Season 3 – a plot point that almost got spoiled in the interim between seasons – and even though he spent way too much of it balancing physical incapacitation with mental lagging, it was inevitable that Doug would once again come face-to-face with Rachel and make her pay the ultimate price for her sins and indiscretions. And even though I found Rachel’s identity-swapping plotline to be rather boring, that one scene made up for it.
After all, it seemed perfectly plausible that despite all of the work he’d put into finding Rachel, and all of the motivations that he had to kill her, Doug might indeed let her go in the end. Maybe his feelings for her would override his anger and devotion to the Underwoods. It certainly seemed that way when he actually did let her go. But, thankfully, the entire plotline wasn’t just for naught and he ran her down in his van, burying her in an unmarked grave. And you know what? I don’t really think that many people hate Doug for doing it, either. Or maybe they do and we just don’t hang in the same circles.
Will Season 4 of House of Cards present Willimon with the opportunity to write more difficult scenes like this? Almost definitely, but we’ll have to wait until it premieres on Netflix in 2016 to find out.